When we speak of the power of the Holy Spirit, many people — even Christians — misunderstand the term power. They tend to define power as the world defines it. Likewise, most believers appear to pursue power in the same way the world pursues it. In the world’s view, power conveys the ability to control people, events, and circumstances. In this view, power brings with it a high degree of independence and self-sufficiency, with no need for the help of others.
The Bible, in describing the power of the Holy Spirit, paints quite a different picture (see Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8, and 2 Corinthians 12:9). The word translated as power in our English Bible is the Greek word dynamis, from which we get the word dynamite.
Prior to receiving the Holy Spirit, the apostles were powerless to carry out Christ’s unfinished work. So in Acts 1:8 Jesus promised, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus told His disciples that before they could be His witnesses, they must first receive the dynamis of the Holy Spirit. Every Christian is packed with power—the Holy Spirit. The power is within us—all we need to do is turn on the ignition switch!
If the Christian life looks too hard, we must remember that we are not called to live it by ourselves. We must live it by the Spirit of God. The command of love is not a new legalistic burden laid on our back; it is what happens freely when we walk by the Spirit. People who try to love without relying on God’s Spirit always wind up trying to fill their own emptiness rather than sharing their fullness. And so love ceases to be love. Love is not easy for us. But the good news is that it is not primarily our work but God’s. We must simply learn to “walk by the Spirit.”
Ephesians 5:18 says to “be filled with the Spirit.” To live a Spirit-filled life means to yield ourselves to the control of the Spirit. The way to do that is to “let the word of Christ richly dwell within us” (Colossians 3:16). Being filled with the Spirit and letting the Word dwell in us are synonymous because they produce the same results: a song in our hearts, a thankful attitude, and loving relationships at home and at work (Ephesians 5:19—6:9; Colossians 3:16—4:1).
To let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly is to be preoccupied with the presence of Christ. The more we saturate our minds with what we learn about Him from the Bible, the more He controls our thoughts. By yielding ourselves totally to the Word of God and letting it permeate our lives, we’ll be controlled by the Spirit’s desires.
When Jesus sent out the disciples, He gave them “power and authority” (Luke 9:1) over demons, to preach the kingdom, and to heal the sick. The Greek word used here for power is, again, dunamis. Exousia is the word used for authority and also means privilege, force, mastery, token of control, delegated influence, jurisdiction, and so on.
That same power and delegated influence has been given to us, if Christ lives in us. Isn’t that an awesome thought? If we are “a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit,” (Eph. 2:22) then His living power and energy resides within us, working as we agree with Him to accomplish His works.
God can do great things through us. Ephesians 3:20 says He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” The power is in us; it just needs to be released. That happens when we yield every aspect of our lives to the Spirit’s control.